I was skimming through the wikipedia article on the simulation hypothesis and saw the following argument by Elon Musk:

If you assume any rate of improvement at all, games will eventually be indistinguishable from reality" before concluding "that it's most likely we're in a simulation.

Isn't the above argument incorrect since if we assume that the technological improvement is quantified by some number then the rate of improvement could be a fractional geometric infinite sequence that converges to a certain quantity that may be lower than the quantity representing the progress that makes simulated reality feasible.

  • 1
    Paraphrased Sword Art Online quote incoming: "The main difference between the virtual reality and the real world is the amount of information they contain." Our brain can construe "realistic" perceptual impressions from much less information than what is or even should be available (it fills the gaps by using known patterns even if not all information fits or is provided). That's why I hope to live to see realistic VR. Quite a step towards full simulation, still.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Apr 13 at 10:12
  • Not a philosophical counter argument, but at the current rate humanity will wipe itself out or return itself to the bronze age before the end of the XXI century, so the conclusion that "games will eventually be indistinguishable from reality" is based on much more assumptions that just the progression of game technology. Also, your own counter is valid, we dont know if this technology does indeed exist. But it is Musk's job to make investors believe it does and keep cash raining.
    – armand
    Apr 13 at 10:21
  • 1
    This is no more an argument than "if you have any sense at all you'll see that 1+1=2". It is the conclusion delivered with a rhetorical flourish. But if we pretend to take it at face value, the rate of improvement (derivative), in the absence of any specifics, is most naturally interpreted as a constant, not a "fractional geometric infinite sequence". And growth with constant rate is growth without a bound, so the conclusion follows. Why on earth we should assume that is another question, but then rhetoric is not for arguing conclusions it is for impressing them by other means.
    – Conifold
    Apr 13 at 10:25
  • There's pretty good reason to think there is growth in the rate of growth of technology, such as Moore's Law, and the increasing rate of new technologies that drive surges in international trade (steam, electricity, silicon chips, the internet). The fall of Rome led to a reduction in living standards such that no European city matched the average living standards until London in the 1720s, but the long term trend has continued, and likely will. A human brain, the most complex computer we know, runs on 10s of watts, so I'd say Elon's case is sound.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 14 at 23:34
  • @CriglCragl Why should the "long term trend" be the one from a couple of technological ages and not a breakdown that followed antiquity? Miniaturization has natural limits, and human memory is hardly an example of "indistinguishable from reality". Not to mention that we have no clue as to what motivates alien civilizations. For all we know, they may have no interest whatsoever in videogames or simulations.
    – Conifold
    Apr 15 at 23:44

Inasmuch as the simulated reality in The Matrix was created by The Architect - an AI - the OP's question becomes one about AI singularity.


a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible

Which doesn't suggest a convergence to a "quantity that may be lower than [that which] makes simulated reality feasible."

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  • Can you explain the difference between The Architect and God? Between simulation theory and intelligent design? To me these are all theistic ideas that lie outside the bounds of what we call science.
    – user4894
    Apr 14 at 17:44
  • @user4894: 'The Architect' may be a god, at least in regard to simulated realities and beings. But not the god of any monotheistic tradition, nor capable of sustaining the attributes many theologians define their deity by.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 14 at 23:26
  • @CriglCragl So The Architect is just like God but without the white robe and long beard? I can't say I regard this as a compelling argument. There are many concepts of God and the western Christian God is only one of them. My point is that if The Architect is God, then simulation theory is essentially a theological position. Which it is.
    – user4894
    Apr 15 at 1:32
  • @user4894: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", So by your reasoning, sufficiently advanced science IS superstition.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 15 at 10:44
  • I think you could take the view that it is our individual, collective and cultural grasp (our existential appropriation) of the raw material of nature that makes us the Architect(s) of our subjective reality. Whether nature itself is a primary or secondary construct may be a truth that one might never know. Nevertheless, my instinct is that nature is basically eternal. Apr 15 at 15:12

Usually this is presented in a more elaborate fashion as: if we can make simulations this good already, a civilization thousands of years ahead of us is so much better at making simulations that we necessarily or possibly live in some such simulation of an advanced civilization.

Post-human civilizations would have enough computing power to run hugely many ancestor-simulations even while using only a tiny fraction of their resources for that purpose.

Those who argue the "necessarily" part have some gaps to fill (like why would some such civilization bother to simulate us). Since Musk isn't arguing any of that... the argument is incomplete at best.

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